Linking the Continent- Golden Spike National Historic Site

Located North of The Great Salt Lake in Northern Utah, Golden Spike National Historic Site preserves the spot where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroad met on May 10th, 1869. The name Golden Spike comes from the final commemorative spike, which had been specially made of gold and was inscribed with names of the railroad company’s hierarchy. The final spike was driven by the famous Californian industrialist, Leland Stanford. 

The linking of the two railroads was seen as a big step in linking both coasts of the United States. Even after it’s completion, however, the Trans-Continental Railroad was still a bit misnamed, as there were still gaps on both sides where other modes of transport had to be used to link rail junctions. Despite not running all the way from one coast to the other, it was still a momentous step forward in the transportation of people and goods between east and west. 

On the day I visited in 2004, the National Park Service was showing off it’s replica Central Pacific No. 60 steam locomotive. Jupiter, as it is known, met head on with Union Pacific no. 119 on that fateful day at Promontory Point.

 Another cool feature of the park was the Transcontinental Railroad National Scenic Byway, a single lane gravel road which follows the path of the railroad through the scrub brush that dominates the area. Although not being the same as riding the rails themselves, the drive nonetheless gives visitors a feel for what the trip must have been like. The area around Promontory Point is still sparsely populated today, as it was in the 1860s.

By the early years of the 20th Century, a new, shorter rail line ran to the south, and the historic line’s materials were salvaged for use in the war effort during World War II. The United States Government, recognizing the site and the event’s importance in closing the gap between the two coast set aside the land for the historic site in the late 1950s. During the last decade, more homage was paid to the event when it was placed on the Utah state quarter during the 50 State Quarters program from the US Mint.

Due to it’s isolated location, Golden Spike visitors numbers remain moderate. With the train replicas and the byway drive along the old train path, the park offers a little something for all visitors. 

One Response to “Linking the Continent- Golden Spike National Historic Site”

  1. I had never even heard of this place.  I had no idea they created a national park which honors the Transcontinental Railroad.  An interesting piece of history for this country.  Now if only we updated our current rail system to the standards over in Europe 🙂

Leave a Reply